On April 17, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security updated its guidance on Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 (i.e., essential businesses). The department issued the first round of guidance on March 19, 2020, as an optional resource to help state and local governments identify workers essential to maintain public health and safety, as well as economic and national security, during the coronavirus pandemic. According to an FAQ, the April 17 update expands critical infrastructure workers in several categories, includes a reference to the CDC’s guidance on safety for critical infrastructure workers, and clarifies that sick workers should avoid the job site. Importantly, the list adds to – but doesn’t subtract from – the list of workers considered essential.
Stay-at-home orders in California, Idaho, and Montana specifically refer to and incorporate the Homeland Security guidance, so these changes may directly benefit businesses there. The “stay-at-home” orders in Arizona and Washington quietly used the Homeland Security guidance as a starting point but didn’t specifically mention it, so it remains to be seen whether those states will expand their own lists of essential workers. (The Oregon order is unique because it doesn’t establish categories of essential workers; instead it specifies businesses that must close and allows all other businesses to continue operating if they comply with social distancing requirements.)
Tips: If you already determined your business is essential, this updated guidance probably doesn’t change anything for you. Keep up with the most recent guidance from your state and local governments on essential businesses or essential workers. The Homeland Security guidance isn’t law, and state or local governments may choose not to adhere to some or all of it. For example, see Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s restrictions on construction, on which we previously reported. If in doubt, you may need to contact state or local authorities to verify that you’re permitted to operate.